"12 Years A Slave" won best picture at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday night, a poignant victory for the harrowing look at slavery in the United States.
Brad Pitt, one of the producers and stars, accepted the honor and then handed off accepting duties to director and fellow producer Steve McQueen.
"Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live," said the British filmmaker. "I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery" and to those who still suffer in slavery today. Besides best picture, the film received Oscars for John Ridley for adapted screenplay and newcomer Lupita Nyong'o for supporting actress.
However, the big winner was the lost-in-space thriller "Gravity," which won seven Oscars. That tally included directing honors for Alfonso Cuaron, who made history by becoming the first Latin American filmmaker to win in that category. "Gravity" also won for original score, cinematography, editing, visual effects, sound mixing and sound editing.
While the best picture race had been hotly contested as the ceremony began, there was little doubt about who would take the top acting prizes.
After dominating the awards season, Matthew McConaughey and Cate Blanchett won for lead actor and lead actress — just as everyone knew they would.
McConaughey won for playing a hard-drinking homophobe who finds out he has AIDS in "Dallas Buyers Club." The drama dealing with the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s also earned Academy Awards for supporting actor Jared Leto, who plays a transgender ravaged by the disease, and for makeup and hair-styling.
Blanchett earned her Oscar for her portrayal of a mentally troubled woman in "Blue Jasmine." "Sit down, you're too hold to be standing," she quipped as she accepted the honor to a standing ovation.
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The ceremony also concluded a Cinderella run for Nyong'o, who made her feature film debut in "12 Years a Slave." The Kenyan actress' portrayal of the brutalized plantation slave Patsey has earned her glowing reviews, several top honors and transformed her into a red carpet trendsetter.
"This has been the joy of my life," Nyong'o said, breaking into tears as the audience cheered her win. She said poignantly that her happiness had come at the expense of those suffered during the century of slavery in the United States and said she dedicated the honor to children around the world: "No matter where you are from, your dreams are all valid."
Original screenplay honors went to Spike Jonze for the quirky romance "Her."
"Frozen" and "The Great Gatsby" each scored two trophies. "Frozen," which just passed $1 billion worldwide in box office receipts, won animated feature film and best song, for "Let It Go."
It was an especially good night for Catherine Martin. She went home with two trophies for the 1920s Jazz Age romantic drama "The Great Gatsby," directed by her husband, Baz Luhrmann. She won for costume design and shared the second, for production design, with set decorator Beverley Dunn.
In other awards, "Mr. Hublot" won animated short, and the honor for live action short film went to "Helium." The feature film documentary trophy went to "20 Feet From Stardom," about backup singers trying to make the jump to the spotlight. The documentary short subject went to "The Lady in No. 6: Music Saved My Life." (The subject of the film, Alice Herz Sommer, the world's oldest pianist and Holocaust survivor, died a week ago at age 110.)
It was a disappointing night for the con comedy "American Hustle," which had gone into the ceremony with 10 nominations — tied with "Gravity." But the David O. Russell hit walked away empty-handed.
One of the most surprising moments of the night?
Host Ellen DeGeneres managed to break Twitter during the show, broadcast on ABC.
The social media platform faltered after the host rounded up some of the biggest names in Hollywood — Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper and Brangelina — for a selfie in the hopes of setting a reTweet record. It was perhaps the best example yet of DeGeneres' friendly, folksy and familiar vibe that she's bringing to the show. Need more proof? She also ordered in pizza for the celebs — delivered during the show — and give Cooper lottery scratchers as a consolation prize after his loss to Leto.